Child immunization is one of the most essential aspects of child care. Although parents are apprehensive about taking their children for vaccinations in the current scenario, it’s important to follow the recommended vaccination schedule.
Living in the time of COVID-19 is challenging and confusing in equal measures. Parental apprehension about taking their children for vaccinations is understandable. Travel restrictions, stay at home orders, fear of exposure, and unpreparedness to maintain supply and safe administration of vaccines has fuelled anxieties.
However, it’s important to remember that immunisation is an essential health service and one of the most economic as well as effective ways of maintaining child health. Let’s take a look at some of the common dilemmas regarding child immunisation in the current scenario.
To do or not to do
The most common question asked by anxious parents is ‘Should I take my child for vaccination to the doctor?’. And the answer is yes. Take your child for vaccination after consulting with your doctor on the phone and taking a prior appointment.
In addition to nutrition, growth monitoring, and developmental assessment, immunisation forms the fourth vital limb of child care. Immunisation prevents the occurrence of common illnesses in children. Apart from primary immunisation – BCG, Hepatitis B, and oral polio drops at birth – children also need other vaccinations for protection against medical conditions, such as diphtheria, tetanus toxoids and pertussis (DTP), measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), hepatitis B, hepatitis A, rotavirus, typhoid, influenza and chickenpox, to name some.
Certain vaccines, such as the HPV vaccine and boosters could be deferred to a later date within the permissible time range, after discussions with your doctor. However, others cannot be delayed. For instance, the rotavirus vaccine – which prevents diarrhea in infants – needs to be given on time as it has strict time limits. If missed, it cannot be given later. Similarly, children need to take the annual influenza shot before the start of monsoon. The rabies vaccine needs to be administered as soon as possible in the event of a dog/animal bite.
Healthcare facilities and doctors have clear guidelines to safely immunise children during the pandemic. These include:
- Limiting visitors and spacing appointments.
- Scheduling well baby/vaccination appointments separate from sick baby consultations.
- Only one carer to accompany a child; siblings, grandparents and nannies will need to stay back. The hospital staff will take your temperature at the entrance. They will also ensure that you as the carer are wearing face cover, have sanitised your hands, and have shoe covers on.
- Before each appointment, infection control measures have to be followed in the vaccination area.
- The doctor to be wearing personal protection equipment.
- The consultation should be prompt, with queries addressed either before or after the session.
The doctor may ask you to wait in your car soon after vaccination for 15-20 minutes to check for an adverse reaction to the immunisation. This is to avoid crowding at the clinic. In case the child develops a fever at home, the doctor will recommend the next steps.
It’s important to notify the doctor if the child has had any contact with a COVID positive/symptomatic carer. Also, if there is any long-standing medical condition, the doctor must be duly informed.
Currently, the pandemic has put a heavy burden on the healthcare infrastructure. Disrupted immunisation may further overwhelm the system by increasing the risk of vaccine-preventable diseases like diphtheria, measles, and polio. There could also be an increase in child mortality due to diarrhoea, pneumonia, and meningitis. The need of the hour is to be pragmatic and not compromise on the wellbeing of our children.
About the Author
Dr. Mona Kulpati is one of the best pediatricians in Delhi NCR. She is a Consultant Pediatrician with over 15 years of experience in Pediatrics and has worked at the Department of Pediatrics at AIIMS and Apollo Hospitals. She also consults at Madhukar Rainbow Children’s Hospital. Some common problems that she is able to effectively manage on a tel consult are Mild/early fever, Rashes, Nutrition and growth, Diarrhea, Constipation, Behavioural issues. Dr Kulpati is a lifetime member of the Indian Academy of Pediatrics, Member Royal College of Pediatrics and Child health, and member of Celiac Support Organization.
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